I often wish I was one of those people who, when faced with a period of uncertainty, would make it a point to get extra sleep, eat nourishing, empowering meals and meditate quietly on how everything happens for a reason and so therefore, there is no reason to worry.
But as we all know, I’m not.
In the week during My Ex’s departure and when he was to return for one night the following Friday, I was a wreck. I stayed up too late, drank more Bud Light than was appropriate, downed astounding amounts of coffee, and ate pizza every day for lunch to the point where my co-worker, McKenzie said, “Enough with the pizza. Stop.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him to fix all those things in my apartment. Maybe I should have bought some racy lingerie for the visit, instead of appearing for bed in my same worn out flannel pajamas night after night. And perhaps I shouldn’t have insisted that he look at so many pictures of The Cat.
My Ex was waiting for me at a bar across the street from my apartment, as he’d arrived from JFK before I got off work. When I entered the place, I felt nervous. And I also felt really, really, tired. All this fretting had left me worn out. We had a quick drink there and then returned home so he could shower before dinner.
We decided to have a low-key dinner at a new Ramen place in my neighborhood. My fatigue was making me quiet, and I worried I wouldn’t have enough energy to discuss what needed to be discussed – our relationship, our future, THE REST OF MY LIFE. But after another beer and an order of sake, along with the steaming bowl of beef broth and noodles, I felt better. I, somewhat annoyingly I’m sure, kept exclaiming, “Beef broth! It’ll cure what ails ya!” My Ex just shook his head and laughed.
We returned home and settled onto the couch. I then declared: It was Time To Talk.
And talk we did. About what we wanted for the future, how we saw our lives apart and together, the reality of our finances, what were deal-breakers for each of us, our values, our goals. And, most importantly, could we see ourselves as a real-life team? Could we?
And the answer was – yes. Yes, for both of us.
We were going to do this.
I had trouble sleeping that night. My Ex fell into a routine of deep breaths easily but I tossed and turned and finally got up as I didn’t want to wake him. I placed a pillow over his eyes so he wouldn’t be disturbed by the light. I then turned it on, grabbed a beer and sat at the dining table where I lit a cigarette and started reading my Kindle.
I sat there for quite some time. Drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, reading. Trying to not think about things. Things such as – we were not going to be together permanently for a long time. We’d both agreed that we were on good paths with our jobs and it didn’t make long-term sense for either of us to up and move right then. That was the practical decision. We came up with a plan that did make long-term sense, but it was going to be long and it was going to be hard. How, I thought…how were we going to do this? What if he met someone else…what if I did? What if one of us lost interest? What if we couldn’t sustain this? What if he wasn’t really The One, or I wasn’t really The One? What if this really wasn’t meant to be? What if? What if? What if? My thoughts circled around and around and as I got up to get another beer and then returned to the table, I felt myself start to disengage. I took a sip from the bottle and looked down at the street from my window. I watched the people walking their dogs, chatting on their cell-phones. I watched the couples move by slowly, hand in hand. I watched the Friday-night revelers returning home from the bars. I watched the night get thicker and the sidewalk bustle get thinner. My mind went blank and I could feel myself pulling away from the situation. Wrapping myself in my own little reality. I realized then, I felt comfortable doing this. Maybe more comfortable than I’d felt during the whole visit. This was what I’d been doing for years. This was what was I knew. This was what was familiar. Watching life go by, and being alone.
But then, at some point, I happened to turn around and look at the bed. There, My Ex was sleeping soundly on his back and curled up on his chest, was one Cat. I felt a sob tighten my throat and I glanced up at the ceiling and tried to swallow it away. Because at that moment, I felt hope. Hope that maybe I was going to get my Happily Ever After after all. I had loved this man most of my life. And he loved me. And that’s when I thought to myself, “What are you doing? This is what you’ve wanted. You have everything you’ve ever wanted. Right now. Tracey, go get it.” And I stubbed out my cigarette, turned out the light and climbed into bed with them. My Ex shifted his position and curled his arm around me. He pulled me to him and as I felt The Cat burrow her way into the space between us, her purr resonating into my back, I fell asleep.
I’d had a master plan for the next day – us waking up early before My Ex had to catch his flight home. We’d go get coffee and then head to the bakery to get him some snacks for the trip. Instead, due to my anxiety attack and late-night beer drinking, I’d slept through the alarm and didn’t wake up until he was already in the shower.
I tumbled out of bed, bleary-eyed, and decided I better redeem myself. I called through the bathroom door, “I’m going to make you some hot chocolate, honey!”
“That sounds great, baby,” he called back.
“With real milk!” I declared.
“Wow okay, thank you.”
But when he emerged from the bathroom in his towel, I was despondently stirring the saucepan with a frown on my face.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“This is boring!” I exclaimed.
He laughed. “Okay, I’ll finish it up.”
I stepped back and handed him the spoon. “You do realize that if you end up with me, you’ll be doing all the cooking.”
“I am well aware of that, yes,” he replied.
“But,” I countered. “I am excellent at washing the dishes.”
He put his arm around me, kissed me on the forehead and said, “I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”
Which may have been one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.
Then we both looked down at the saucepan and realized that despite the fact that the milk was still luke-warm, I’d somehow scalded the bottom layer to the pot.
Since I didn’t really know what to do with myself as he finished getting ready, I decided to return to bed.
“Okay, I have to go now,” he said a few minutes later and he sat down next to me.
“Okay,” I said, pulling myself up. He took my hand and I ran my thumb across his.
“I’ll miss you, Tracey,” he said.
“I’ll miss you,” I said.
And then neither one of us knew what to say so we just hugged each other tightly until he said, “I’m sorry, I really have to go now.”
“Okay,” I said again and got out of bed to follow him to the door. He turned to face me. “So, I’ll text you when I land and – ”
“Honey, wait!” I said and grabbed his hand. Because I didn’t want him to go. And I actually did want to ask him this question.
I took a deep breath. Then I said, “I know this isn’t really your thing but…after I publish all this, and everyone knows…Can I update my status? You know, on Facebook? To be in a relationship?” I started speaking really fast then. “I mean, I know it’s dumb and I know it doesn’t matter and – ”
He stopped me. “Of course you can.”
“Really???” I said and bounced on my toes in immature excitement. “I promise I won’t link it to you, so you can maintain your anonymity.”
He smiled and squeezed my hand. “It’s okay, you can link it to me. I’m proud to be with you.”
I bit my lip. “But honey, if I do that, there’s going to be people who can track you down through the blog and see your profile and I don’t know what that will mean for you. I don’t think you’d like that.”
He thought about that a moment and then nodded. “You’re right, I probably wouldn’t like that. But yes, you can update your status. I love you, Tracey.”
“I love you too,” I said.
He leaned down, kissed me softly and then whispered into my hair, “Baby, I have to go now.”
“Okay,” I breathed.
“So, I’ll text you when – ”
“Wait, one last thing!” I said.
He laughed. “What is it?”
“What do you want your new name to be? You know, in the blog? I mean, you can’t be My Ex anymore.”
“Well, I suppose that’s true. But I’ll leave it up to you. After all, it’s your blog. Whatever you want to name me is fine.”
“Okay,” I said, nodding. “I’ll think up something good.”
And then he kissed me goodbye, and I tried to not to think about the fact that it would be the last kiss I’d get from him for a very long time. He then told me he loved me and I told him I loved him.
And then he left.
I actually slept until 5pm that day. And when I woke up, I though about the trip, what it meant for me, for us, the long road we had to go. But I considered, after 28 years, perhaps it wasn’t so long after all. And then I thought about his blog name. I thought about naming him his middle name but then nixed that because I worried that was too easy to figure out. I thought of giving him a random name, like how Mr. Big ended up being “John” in Sex and the City. But then recalled how much I hadn’t liked that plot twist. I thought about continuing to call him My Ex. But that didn’t seem right either.
So then I decided, as I sat down that night to write this Series, that, at least for now, he was to be named what he was to me. Even though that name couldn’t possibly encompass all that he actually is, but still, it was who he was – and that is: